Greece sets up 45-mile no-fly zone around Olympics site

Monday, August 9, 2004

ATHENS Greece has established a no-fly zone to protect the Olympic Games.

Greek officials said authorities have set up a 45-mile no-fly zone around Athens in an effort to prevent enemy or suspicious aircraft from entering the air space above the Olympic Village. They said the no-fly zone would remain in effect during the Olympic Games in August and the Paralympics in September.

The no-fly zone, officials said, spans the area between Athens international airport in Spata and the main Olympic stadium, Oaka. The no-fly zone would be enforced by a range of air defense assets, including the PAC-3 missile defense system.

[On Wednesday, a homemade bomb exploded near an electrical substation outside Athens, Middle East Newsline reported. Authorities reported no injuries and slight damage in what appeared to be an attack by Greek anarchists.]

Officials said the Civil Aviation Authority has been placed on high alert in advance of the Olympic Games, which begin on Aug. 13. They said air traffic was expected to reach record levels between Aug. 9 and 13.

In response, the authority has designed a Control Coordinating Center to monitor and direct airplanes in Greece's air space. The center began operating on Aug. 1 and has been maintaining communications with the ministries of defense, public order and transport to ensure that unidentified or suspicious aircraft do not enter Greece.

"The Olympic Games constitute a great and difficult undertaking, but we are not a small country," Greek Deputy Defense Minister Ioannis Lambropoulos said. "We have a great civilization and a great history and I am confident that we shall succeed with the help of all Greeks."

Greece has also established a 10-mile no-fly zone around the northern Greek port of Thessaloniki. Officials said any unidentified aircraft that enters the zone would spark an immediate alert.

Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos said he was satisfied with Greece's air early-warning and air defense systems. The minister said the upgraded security would not disrupt the games.

Officials said that on Aug. 5, NATO begins its contribution to the defense of Greece during the Olympic Games. A Greek officer will take over the NATO Mediterranean naval force command at Souda. The command will also support security operations during the Olympics.

NATO has also established an NBC battalion at Halkida, north of Athens. The battalion was composed of soldiers from Belgium, Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland.

The United States has been closely monitoring Greek and NATO security efforts. The United States was expected to deploy about 1,000 armed guards to protect dignitaries, including former President George Bush, the father of the current U.S. president.

"I hope everything will go well," United States ambassador to Athens Thomas Miller said. "There is cooperation between Greece and the U.S. on the issue of security."

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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